Public Safety

I am not against public health efforts when the behavior of one person puts another at direct physical risk.  You cannot drain your toilet directly into the local water table even if it all happens on your property, and you do not have a right to expose others to tuberculosis.  Similarly with vaccines.  The government does not have a right to mandate vaccination for your own good.  But it does have a right to do so when being unvaccinated is a physical threat to others who engage in normal behavior.

via How Can a Libertarian Be In Favor of Mandatory Vaccination, But Not Mandatory Health Insurance? – Megan McArdle – National – The Atlantic.

This is a good argument, as far as it goes. However, there’s still a lot to think through. We have air and water pollution standards because of public health. We know that some people are more impacted by pollutants than others. So, when determining the amount of impurities permissible in the public water supply, where do we set the limit? Do we say a level of impurity that’s safe for 99% of people is good enough? Or do we go for 99.9%? Or 99.999%?

In a similar vein, how safe do we want food, or cars, or highways to be? There is no obvious correct answer, except perhaps to say that we should probably focus on the higher impact threats before the lower impact threats. Yet, I suspect, if we did that exercise, we’d find we’re paying attention to many of the wrong things.


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